Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lee Bonticou: Channeler With A Welding Torch

Sue was looking at Barbara’s copy of the catalog for Lee Bonticou: A Retrospective (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2003, New York) Tuesday night. I was hosting drawing group, and I put it out to see if Sue would notice. She said she loves Lee Bonticou. Sue runs a gallery in the Corcoran Neighborhood, and a lot of her own work involves fiber or fabric, or drawings of it. Jules, our model for the evening, was not wearing any fiber.

I told Sue that I had seen my first Lee Bonticou at Chicago’s Art Institute, on an Eighth Grade class trip. Actually, it may have been two years later on a Biology Club trip to Chicago. Split the difference and call it 1964. I thought, “That thing is really neat. What is it?”

Bonticou is the woman in the photograph, and the piece I saw was a sculpture, about four feet square, of a kind of kiva-looking thing, made by stitching used canvas onto a frame of welded steel. The thing was lined with black velvet -- no landmarks, no reflections -- making the inside seem infinitely deep: the void.

Here I’m scanning photos of some of Bonticou’s work. This woman draws with a welding torch. No, really. I’m not being hyperbolic, or making some obscure connection between sculpture and drawing. Bonticou (born 1931, Rhode Island, United States) discovered that her torch made soot if the mixture was too rich. She liked it, and started using it to make pictures. I’m also including pictures of Paolo Soleri’s (born 1919, Turin, Italy) Arcosanti, drawings by Roger Dean (the guy who did the Yes album covers, born 1944, Kent, England), a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy (born 1956, Cheshire, England), and some sketches by Cheech Wizard cartoonist Vaughn Bode (born 1941, New York State). They all seem to share an aesthetic. Barbara says that it’s puncture wounds, and she couldn’t look at any of them when she was pregnant. Maybe. Each one displays an environmentalist theme, and resonates with my own, psychedelically formed, aesthetic. I’m particularly interested in the resonance between Bonticou and the two more commercial artists, Dean and Bode. It seems like Bonticou is channeling something.

Examples by Soleri, Goldsworthy, Bode, and Dean are in the previous post.

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